In this study we will examine the neural and autonomic correlates of emotional face perception before and after Compassion meditation practice. Our long-term goal of this project is to contribute to an improved understanding of how stress-causing social perceptions can be changed through Compassion meditation (ComM). Our objective in this study is to determine if, and how, ComM can change one’s perception of faces that have negative, positive or neutral associations or emotional expression, and whether this practice leads to trait and/or state effects. Our central hypothesis is that those who regularly practice ComM will show fewer neural and autonomic differences in how they process affectively-toned faces compared to those who do not practice the meditation (trait). In addition, we hypothesize that meditation-naïve persons who are trained for a week in ComM will show reduced differences in neural and/or autonomic processing between the affectively-toned faces compared to before they did the practice, and compared to those who learned a simple Relaxation technique (state). Neural measures will include ERP and fMRI, using scores on behavioral inventories, behavioral ratings of faces, pupil dilation, and meditation self-ratings as regressors of interest.

Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, PhD

School of Medicine, West Virginia University

Fellow, Grantee, Reviewer